Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Laser striker sentenced to 14 years imprisonment

According to a press release of the US Attorney for the District of California, a 26-year-old male person was sentenced to 14 year in prison on 10 March 2014 for aiming with a laser against the crew of a police helicopter. The defendant had a series of criminal convictions in the past.

The defendant and his 23-year-old girlfriend were found guilty of using a high-powered green laser pointer to repeatedly strike a police helicopter, which was investigating reports of laser strikes against an emergency transport helicopter for Children’s Hospital of Central California. The laser pointer used was 13 times more powerful than the permissible power emission level for hand-held laser devices. The crewmembers of both helicopters testified that the laser strikes caused significant visual interference.  

The gravity of the sentence was also due to the defendant’s serious criminal history, which included probation violations and a gang affiliation. Furthermore, the expert witness, a Senior Research Optometrist for the Air Force Research Laboratory, testified that the use of the laser pointer in that case risked serious bodily injury and indirectly death because of the interference with the crew’s visual ability. The laser light in such case may cause temporary flashblindness and lead to loss of the aircraft ’s control.

In the US laser pointing against an aircraft or against its flight path is considered a felony and is punished with fine or imprisonment or both – concerning federal law see 18 USC 39A and more detailed provisions in 21 CFR 1040.10 and 1040.11. You can find the relevant provisions of state laws here.  The risks to the safety of aircraft are so severe that the FBI offers up to $10.000 for information leading to the arrest of any individual who intentionally aims a laser at an aircraft.

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